The Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner has received a grant of about $700,000 to help pay operating costs and fund other initiatives.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a private foundation based in New York City that awards grants to support the arts and humanities, announced Tuesday in a press release that the Till center had been awarded a $691,750 grant.

“We were through the moon. We were so excited to be able to partner with the Mellon Foundation to receive the support that we badly needed,” said Patrick Weems, executive director of the center. “What this grant allows us to do is to continue the work that we’ve been doing over the last 15 years, which is to tell the truth of Emmett Till for the purpose of racial healing and racial justice.”

Till was a Black 14-year-old from Chicago who, while visiting relatives near Money, was kidnapped, tortured and killed after whisting at a white female shopkeeper in 1955.

Weems said he could not yet detail the specific use of the grant money, but he said it will allow the center to expand its exhibits and provide more programs for the community.

The center was one of five entities to receive grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Monuments Project, a $250 million grant project “to reimagine and transform commemorative spaces to celebrate America’s diverse history,” according to the foundation’s press release.

Although the Till center has closed its doors to the public and canceled in-person tours since the pandemic began, it has found ways to continue engaging with people by shifting its work online.

Weems said this includes promoting the use of the Emmett Till Memory Project App, which guides users to various locations throughout the Delta and Chicago that are connected to Till’s story, as well as speaking with high schools and churches virtually.

“The way that we do our online work is similar to how we give our tours here in Tallahatchie County,” Weems said, explaining that staffers at the center use the story of Till “to talk about racial healing, racial justice, truth telling and why those stories are so important.”

The Till center also launched a series of videos, “Surviving and Thriving: COVID-19 in the Mississippi Delta,” that examined the impact of the coronavirus by allowing residents of the Delta to detail how the pandemic has affected them.

Weems said the center hopes to produce more online content, such as a podcast that may intersect with the miniseries “Women of the Movement.” The first season of the TV series to air on ABC is about the life of Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.

Parts of the series have been filmed in the Greenwood area since last month.

Weems thanked the Tallahatchie County Board of Supervisors and the Delta’s residents for their continued support for the Till center to allow it to continue its mission.

Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

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